Young Adults with Cancer Website

My Story (A Journal of Fighting and Surviving Cancer)

by Mark and Laurie Williams

I started having symptoms about the spring of 2002. They were what we thought to be stress related; hives, panic attacks, breathing difficulties, and fatigue. We called 911 in the summer of 2002 because I thought that I was having a heart attack. They didn’t even take me into the hospital because they thought it was just stress related. In the fall we went to the emergency room for that same reason, but they didn’t do a chest x-ray. By February of 2003, I had the night sweats, cold chills, weight loss, and fatigue and weakness. I started out weighing 205 and went down as low as 175.

In February 2003, I had a horrible week where I experienced terrible night sweats, chills, and overheated times as well. I finally went to my primary care doctor again and had blood drawn to determine what the problem was, insisting on extensive blood-work being done. We received startling news that the inflammation markers in my blood were through the roof. I was malnourished and had low iron. We were sent to a GI doctor because they thought that it was related to my GI tract. They were afraid of internal bleeding. The GI doctor asked if I had chest pains and difficulty breathing, which he did. He mentioned that sometimes parasites can cause respiratory problems. He ordered a chest X-ray for the next day and this is when something showed up in between my diaphragm. A cat scan was scheduled for the following day and revealed a lot of inflamed lymph nodes in my chest, near my clavicle, and in my abdomen. The radiologist stated that this could be only one of two things, most likely some kind of lymphoma. He didn’t really take the time to explain the other possibility, therefore dismissing it in his mind as unlikely. We were very distressed that the word “cancer” was being thrown out there as a very real possibility.

I was referred to an oncologist and hematologist, but they couldn’t get me in for nearly two weeks at the Kensington office. We told them to put me on a cancellation list, and they called back about two hours later saying they could get me into the Shady Grove office the following Thursday. This was something that we had prayed for specifically, so as not to have to wait for almost two weeks!

Our initial visit with the Oncologist went well. It was on a Thursday. It was very difficult being there and seeing the “world of cancer” up front and personal. Seeing the patients bald and devoid of energy was quite a shock. Laurie (my wife) left discouraged, but I was encouraged. Maybe there was hope to beat this thing. The doctor gave us pretty good treatment odds for cancer. He explained that if it was Hodgkin’s disease, it was very treatable. They couldn’t biopsy the lymph nodes with a needle because they couldn’t feel any. They did do a bone marrow biopsy on both sides, and this was the most painful thing that Mark had to do in his life. It was terrible. The doctor literally puts all of his weight onto your hip to drive a large needle through the bone. To make matters worse, the medicine that was supposed to numb the pain had not yet started to work when the doctor started on my left hip. It affected my ability to walk directly after, and left me weak, in pain, and shocked at what I went through.

The oncologist had ordered a PET scan, and wanted me to see a surgeon. We were able to get the scan on Monday and see the surgeon on Tuesday morning. The PET scan went well. They injected radioactive glucose into my vein, then scanned me for an hour. The glucose is literally sucked up by the cancer cells that are present, causing them to “light up”. We requested a copy for the doctors. They needed to keep the CAT scan films so the radiologist could interpret the PET scan. We needed both for the next morning with the surgeon, so Laurie went back later to pick up the CAT scan.

The appointment with the surgeon was the most disheartening and shocking one yet. He was very matter of fact in his delivery when he very simply stated that Mark had stage 3 cancer, maybe stage two but most likely no less than stage three. He told us briefly how the surgery would go, and sent us on our way. An incision near his windpipe would be made and the tissue removed.

(Laurie Writing)

Up to this point, we were shocked and somewhat numb. I knew that my life may never be the same. Then we left the office we couldn’t talk to one another until we entered the elevator. By the time we got to our car, I was in tears and Mark was in shock. This was the worst moment of our lives. I cried the whole way home, and on the way Mark had to stop in and pick up his referral for the oncologist as they lost the first one. We went home and just cried and talked. It was the most difficult time of our lives as far as I can see. I told Mark that if the Lord got us through this, that we would be changed forever. We would never look at life or each other the same again.

I went to get my daughter Kailey from school a little later. She was at a field trip and her teacher drove her because I couldn’t make it. I got there early and waited in the parking lot. I was okay until I got Kailey and was driving away and Mrs. Ellis came out to give me her backpack that she forgot and asked how the appointment went. I said not good and started to cry. She held my hand and quoted Jeremiah 17:7 and 8 to me.

An hour later we had to drop her off at my friend Ann-Marie’s house so we could go see the oncologist. He still did not have the bone marrow test in, so couldn’t tell us if it was in his bone marrow or not. He told us stage three, possibly Hodgkin’s disease, and that it was in his spleen as well. He gave Mark 50-50 odds of being cured the first go around. The salvage treatment would be another 50-50 odds. After this appointment we did call people to let them know, having waited until the final word from the oncologist. I cried the whole day, until about 4pm when I had cried out most of my tears, although some still came. People were in shock, and couldn’t believe that it had gotten so advanced. Anytime I spoke with someone or saw someone, I started to cry. I couldn’t even go into Ann-Marie’s house to get Kailey after the oncologist appointment.

We scheduled Mark’s surgery for Shady Grove Hospital for that Friday. We were praying for it to be sooner and that his bone marrow was cancer free. Very quickly we received a call that his bone marrow was free of cancer. Soon after that we rescheduled his surgery for the following afternoon! God was so good to us in giving us hope and instant encouragement. Before we knew that Mark was so sick, we had scheduled a slumber party for my daughter Anna’s 10th birthday for that Friday. God was in all the details.
A big dilemma for us was when to tell the kids. The day Mark was diagnosed with some type of cancer was March 18, Anna’s 10th birthday. We were going to tell the kids after school the next day, but the surgery was scheduled so quickly we had to tell them before school. We would be at the hospital when they got home. I talked with our friends Dave and Peggy Smith to get some practical advice on how to tell them, having gone through cancer with Dave 12 years ago. We had Kailey play and took the kids into our sitting room and told them after breakfast. They were very quiet and took it well. We gave them the choice to stay home that day, but they wanted to go to school. Tyler said that he wasn’t scared or worried, and wanted to go to school. Anna took a little while to decide about going to school. Mark read to them from the Bible in James 1:2-3 and Phillipians 4:4-7. We told them that Dad has been sick and going to a lot of Doctors, and they found out that he has a type of cancer. Because it is very strong, they need to give him stronger medicine called chemotherapy to make it go away. We said that a lot of people get better with this medicine. We explained the side effects and what to expect. We told them about Mark’s surgery that day to find out exactly what kind of cancer it is so we can treat it the best way. We told them that others may tell them things that scare or confuse them but to come to us and we will be honest with them. They went to school and I sent in notes to their teachers explaining the situation and to let them call if they need to.

My friend Iris met us at the hospital that day for Mark’s surgery. We had to be there at 2pm for a 4pm surgery. I really did feel God’s peace and strength. Everything went well. He was taken back and prepped for surgery before they would let me come back and sit with him. They had tried twice to get the IV in, but failed. The technician took blood and left for the lab, but they spilled it and wanted to do it again. Mark was very upset. The anesthesiologist and surgeon said to forget the blood work (to check for his clotting capabilities), and got the IV in on the first try. I left him as he was rolled out to surgery. It was very hard leaving him at that point. I went into the bathroom to collect myself but did not cry and was fine. It was a difficult time waiting. His surgeon came out after about one hour and said everything went well and there is definitely cancer. He said they would have the results in two days. I waited about 1½ hours to go back and see him. We went down to the second stage recovery together. It was so hard to see him so out of it. I could tell that the Lord gave me abundant grace for the day. I held it together and never even cried. We got home at 8pm that night. My mom had the kids and brought them home. They were there when we arrived home. Iris brought us dinner.
The next few days were tough with Mark trying to recover. By Friday, it hit us that we really needed to pray with others. Mark kept turning down opportunities to pray with others. Anna was having her previously scheduled slumber party that night. We had our friend Joe picking up the pizza for us, and asked Iris to come with him and pray with us. When the girls went down to watch a video, we talked and prayed. It was very emotional for all of us, and the first time we had prayed with anyone else besides each other. All of us cried openly.

That Sunday, March 23rd, we had our pastors and friends, Paul Abbott, Ken Jackson, Mark Kreslins, and Joe and Iris come and anoint Mark with oil and pray, laying hands on him. It was very powerful and emotional.

We decided to do the following through this:

Know that God is good
Trust him for the outcome
Pray without ceasing
Pray with others often
Be honest with our kids.
To not forget how to laugh
To have fun together
To not hang our hope on what the doctors say, or despair over the odds and bad news
To pray for complete healing

We still waited for the biopsy results to no avail. Our Oncologist, Dr. Walmark told us that he thought it was probably Hodgkin’s Disease.

Our friend John Baker came over on Monday, March 24 and prayed with us before our date night. He really encouraged us to go to NIH (National Institutes of Health) and have treatment there. We determined that we would get our slides from the biopsy over to them as soon as we could. We were on an emotional high with the thought that we could go to NIH.

The next day, March 25th, we went to the appointment at Dr. Walmark’s office and there were still no test results. They did say it was 90% sure to be Hodgkins. We asked him to send them over to NIH as they were talking of doing so anyway. He told us that Mark may have cancer in his adrenal gland, and it is in his pelvis as well. He said it was stage 3 or 4. He also mentioned all of the terrible side effects of the chemo other than hair loss, nausea, and fatigue. Heart problems, lung issues, infections, (a 100.05 fever being an emergency), possibility of leukemia down the road, and the next eight years, especially the next five being the time the cancer can come back. It was disheartening and hard to hear.

We called NIH (An acquaintance of ours was a doctor there and he did the legwork and lab work for us with Mark’s biopsy) two days later and confirmed that he received it. His initial impression of it was Hodgkin’s nodular sclerosis. This is a more easily treated form of cancer. He told us that we would know on Monday the 31st of March. We did hear then that it was confirmed to be the Hodgkin’s NS (Nodular Sclerosis). The Lord answered that prayer as well. This day was particularly hard because I took Anna to her 10- year checkup and found out that a bump on her lower back needs to be removed and that she has scoliosis. We have determined to give all of this to the Lord.

Monday I took Anna to her ten-year checkup only to find out that she has mild scoliosis, a cyst on her tailbone, and tremors in her hands and legs that she had been complaining about. We were very disheartened about it and struggle to get our minds and hearts around the Lord allowing this. It seemed to be the first struggle we truly had with the Lord, but He was faithful to get us through it.

On that Wednesday Mark went back to Dr. Levin’s, the surgeon, to have a follow-up appointment to check his incision. Everything was fine.

Thursday we took our son Ty into Johns Hopkins for his six-month checkup. We thought that everything went well.

That Saturday, April 5th, was hard. Tyler had his opening ceremony and first game, while Anna had a riding lesson. It was cold, damp, and rainy. Mark was not feeling well and I was struggling with his fight to not be upset. We did have a good talk and cleared the air.

That Sunday Mark stayed home from church, but I went. It was the first time that I had stayed after the service instead of leaving right away. I was so nervous about it that my stomach had butterflies. Anna and Tyler had to practice for singing on Palm Sunday. Mom and Carolyn (Mark’s mom) got the kids while I got Kailey’s car seat into Jim’s car. They stayed with the kids and I went home. Everyone was very nice and supportive. Hugging me and telling me that so many are praying for us. It really went well. Mark’s parents took the kids out to lunch and then home while we had some more people come and lay hands on Mark, anoint him with oil, and pray. It was Paul and Sharon Abbott, Dave and Peggy Smith, Ken Jackson, and the Mehailescus. It was another very emotional time, with most of us crying. They prayed for Anna, as well as Kailey and Ty too.

On Monday I took Anna to the surgeon who said that she will definitely need to have the cyst removed with general instead of local. The encouraging thing was that when I shared with him about Mark’s illness and chemo, he said that he didn’t care when we remove the cyst. He was very casual about the whole thing. Praise God! We will go ahead and schedule it for 6 months to a year.

Tuesday April 8th was the big day. Mark was very nervous and struggling with not knowing how much the Lord will let happen to him. This made me nervous. We prayed on our way over to the appointment. This helped some, but we realized that I forgot to pick up the referral! I called Chris Miller who works in the same office complex as our primary care doctor and he picked it up with permission from me. He dropped it by the office as we were back talking with Dr. Walmark. The Lord took care of us again!

Dr. Walmark said that this form of chemo, ABVD, is about a 5 or 6 on a scale of 10 for aggressiveness. We discussed some of our questions and concerns with him before Mark went back to the treatment room. I scheduled his next two appointments before going back. When the nurse was getting ready to put the IV in, I went to the bathroom! After, they still didn’t have it in, so I made a phone call in the hallway outside the office to Chris to say thank you. After that, when I went back it was in! Thank goodness! I really didn’t want to see it happening.

The oncology nurse first started a saline drip, then added Benadryl to offset a possible allergic reaction and Tylenol to offset a fever from one of the drugs. They gave him Ativan to calm him and keep him from getting nauseous, and a triple dose of Zofran for the nausea. He received the first three chemo drugs IV push with a needle through the IV line. One is bright red and turns your pee red. One is so toxic that if it gets on your skin it kills it and you need to see a plastic surgeon. They have an antidote to draw it out of your skin if it does happen. It is very harsh on your veins. The last chemo medication is put in saline and IV dripped for 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Then they took off the IV and gave him a pneumonia vaccination. The chemo can harm his lungs and heart, his white and red blood cell counts will drop, a fever from infection of 100.5 or over is an emergency, his veins can become damaged or shutdown, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, chills, malaise, hair loss, nail darkening, secondary cancers. This is all very daunting.

Mark really did well. All the medications calmed him and made him very sleepy. He was able to dose off a few times. We were the only ones for treatment most of the time so I was able to sit back with him the whole time in the neighboring chemo chair. They are very comfortable!

When we could finally go home we had been there for 5 1/2 hours. We were very tired and Mark was kind of out of it. We went home and grabbed a quick lunch, then I ran and got his prescription filled. Mark took one Zofran right way because he was starting to feel nauseous. He felt kind of yuck the rest of the evening, but less tired after a nap. That night he had to take more medicine due to extreme nausea at 2:30 in the morning. He woke up feeling poorly, but able to go into work until about 4pm that day. He came home feeling very tired and pretty nauseous, so he took a nap.

We have had some people come pray with us throughout the week. Ken Jackson and Mark Kreslins put together a list of those who could come to our home and pray. So far, John Baker, Mark, and Ken, as well as Joe and Iris have come. John and the Mehailescues have been very consistent. This has been a real blessing, and had taught Mark of his need for the body, and has taught me to be real in my prayer with others an not to fear my emotions and making them known.

On the Wednesday after the chemo, Mark actually went to work. He ended ups being very tired that night and nauseous, but feeling okay. Thursday, his stomach and intestines were on fire. He hadn’t gotten more than two hours of sleep the night before. He was exhausted and couldn’t go into work. The doctor prescribed a drug for him that would calm that down. It helped a little. He was very sick that day. Joe and Iris came to pray with us and he fell asleep during the prayer! Anna was with us for the first part of the prayer time as I was praying. This was a huge step for her as she had turned down all previous offers to join us for these prayer times.

Thursday was another difficult day, and Mark really didn’t start to feel better until Monday. Tuesday he worked some, as well as Wednesday and Thursday. Tuesday he went in to see Dr. Walmark and they did blood work. His counts were low, but that was expected. He will certainly need shots to boost his white and red blood cell counts. He lost five pounds. Not too bad. By Wednesday, he was able to go without Advil and take a walk at 7pm. This was unheard of for him. Thursday he worked until 6pm. It was the first time he felt better than even before he went on the chemotherapy. The cancer was starting to be affected by the drugs. Praise the Lord! Unfortunately, Sunday night Tyler started a fever, and by Tuesday I was sick with a fever. We both threw up and did everything that we could to keep Mark un-exposed. We cleaned and disinfected all the surfaces. We kept Ty confined to his room or the basement. I wore a mask. Anna developed a fever on Thursday night. The whole thing was scary and at the same time very sad and upsetting. Mark’s blood counts dropped right when we all got sick. We knew this to be a dangerous time for Mark to be exposed to anything. We were sad because it was the kid’s spring break from school and we had to cancel everything. It also really separated us as a family and isolated Mark. We had been wanting to get our family picture done before Mark loses his hair. We had to put that off as well.

Saturday came with everyone seeming to be doing fine. I had not been sleeping well for three nights, and was exhausted. We loaded everyone up and went for our pictures, which were great! This was an answer to prayer. Kailey spiked a fever about 15 minutes after the pictures when we were in the middle of lunch. I know that God is good and in all the details. I wanted that picture and had been praying. I also wanted Kailey to be healthy. The Lord gave us the picture (important because Mark would lose his hair and if he didn’t survive) and we needed to trust that Mark would remain healthy and not get this. God has shown me Psalm 62 and given me a new hope and peace in Him. He is our stronghold and if we simply let go of what we are holding onto so tightly, we will gain peace and strength. If we let go, all we are holding onto is Him.

Sunday April 20th is Easter. We were told that Paul Abbott will make an announcement about us and tell people how they can help. My sister in law, Angie wants him to tell them to write their email addresses down if they want a once-a-week email with updates and info, etc. We do not want to be there for that announcement, but I do a little. I want to know what was said. We will have to go early to church instead of our usual being late and leaving early. We feel that we need to avoid the large groups of people for a while due to all of the questions and well-meaning comments.

We did not make it to church on Easter Sunday due to Laurie and Kailey being sick with the flu. Paul decided to hold off on making the announcement until the following Sunday. Mark went with Anna and Tyler to mom and dad’s house for dinner. I struggled immensely with discouragement with us getting sick and the dangers of Mark getting sick too. The Lord really protected Mark, though. He remained untouched by the germs without even moving out temporarily. Our friends Ken and Leanne Malnar prayed with us on Monday night.

On Tuesday April 22, Mark had his second chemo treatment. They got the IV in four times before finally getting the fifth one to take. It was very painful and difficult for Mark. I had such a hard time seeing Mark go through that. He did get it in the crock of his arm on the right side this time. They worry about leakage there, but it worked out fine. His white counts are low now and he will need to go in Thursday, Friday and Monday of next week for Nupogen shots. It is amazing that even with the low white counts he did not get the flu from us.
The chemo, except for the IV, was uneventful. Mark was a little nervous about all of that toxic medication going into him again, so he received Ativan in his IV. This and the Benadryl calmed him and made him sleepy. He dozed a little, but was very antsy and fidgety. The whole process took over an hour shorter this time, and we were home by 1:15. We ate lunch and I ran to get our dinner from Ann at church because Tyler had a game that night. I ran to the grocery store and got some things. Mark went up to nap, due to being tired. Dave Smith came and prayed with Mark before we left for the game. Mark was able to join us later and stay for 2/3 of the game. He was somewhat nauseous.

He had a good night and slept fine. He didn’t need to get up and take any medications. When he woke up the next morning he felt okay. As with last time, it really hit him the Wednesday night after. He was nauseous and achy, as well as exhausted. He still has not thrown up yet. He worked Wednesday but not Thursday, and he worked a half-day on Friday. John Baker prayed with us Wednesday, then Joe and Iris came and prayed with us on Thursday night. I really feel that my perspective on suffering and pain had changed so much. Instead of a thing to be avoided and despised, it can be embraced as God’s mercy and love is revealed to us through it. We are growing and drawing near to the Lord in ways we simply couldn’t if things were going great. The last few years have prepared our hearts for this. The Lord had walked us through life for this moment. Pain is something to be embraced because we are choosing to remain in the Lord. His great mercy enables us to go through suffering and draw near to him and see his face. He WILL redeem this and we are trusting him to do just that. We are praying that he will receive glory, honor, and praise. We want to be a witness for him and emerge from this trial with a testimony beyond anything we could imagine. This is our prayer. We want to have a permanent change in our hearts and attitudes and perspective. We want our relationships to be forever changed.

On Saturday the 26th, four days after his chemo treatment, he was able to go with us to a store briefly, but after being out for an hour and a half he was exhausted. He really does feel better this time around. On Sunday the 27th he stayed home from church because Paul made an announcement about him due to the amount of phone calls to the church office of people who want to help and want information about us. It was hard to hear Paul talk about us, and when he mentioned that Mark had been diagnosed with Hodgkins, there was a collective “ahhhh”. Paul said that we are okay with our bills, but to protect Mark with his immune system being compromised, we are going to have a few people coming in who can be paid to do the lawn and cleaning and that people can contribute to that. It was uncomfortable to hear but we know it is a good way for people to help out and get involved. Angie will be the family spokesperson and send out email weekly to those who want updates.

John came and prayed with us on Wednesday as usual. Lauren Beam has offered to baby sit for us every other week on Mark’s off weeks for chemo. She came on Thursday night and we went to Joe and Iris’ house to pray and have them witness our wills.

This next week was difficult for Mark in so many ways. He started having a lot of heart palpitations and it was interfering with his sleep. He went into the oncologist’s office on Tuesday as usual and the PA said that she heard the irregularities when she examined him. They sent him to Shady Grove Hospital on Friday and I was able to go with him. He had a MUGA scan to see if there was any heart muscle damage and to check the blood flow. We did not get any results from that after the scan. They had to put in an IV, but they got it in right away.

This was an especially had week because I was getting very burned out at home with no breaks since way before his whole thing started. Mark was struggling with facing death daily and worrying about his heart. He is just so tired of this whole thing and knows that he has so far to go. He is very worried about leaving us behind. He had a panic attack on early Saturday at 4am. He had to take the Xanax much more often lately.

We have been thinking that the trembling that Anna has been having in her arms, hands, and legs may be anxiety. It has abated somewhat. Even at one day shy of four weeks, Mark has not lost his hair yet. This past week it has thinned a lot, but nothing that others would notice right away. We have noticed. I had a talk with Anna about her fears with him going bald. I told her that there are many men who shave their heads and many in the church because it is very “in”. I think she felt better after that, but she and Ty are still praying that he does not lose his hair.

Mark was starting to get nervous and dread his next treatment. By Monday the 5th, one day before is third treatment, his heart palpitations were very bad. He had to sleep sitting up on the couch so that he would not notice them as much. On Tuesday morning early mom took the kids to school and Dave and Peggy Smith prayed with us before we had to leave for the appointment. It was very comforting to pray with a couple who had been through what we are going through. That morning Mark was nauseous before we even left the house, and he told me that the color turquoise of the chemo chairs is starting to repel him. “I’m starting to hate that color”.

Dr. Walmark said that even with a normal sedimentation rate (a marker for inflammation), he still had cancer. He said that Mark’s liver did not seem enlarged. We asked about having an early scan and he said that it would not change how many minimum treatments that he does. The MUGA scan was normal.

We had specifically prayed for the IV to go in well because that last time it took five tries. This time we had the nurse Marina who was the first one to do Mark’s chemo. She got it in on the first try. Praise God! Mark was queasy even before the chemo meds were administered. He has grown very weary of the whole process this week and dreads the week of chemo. Everything went fine and we were home by 1:30.

Iris brought over the lady to clean the home that night to give us an estimate. She was very understanding of the need to keep things sanitary and to not come sick. As usual, Mark went to work on Wednesday, and actually had a good night that night sleeping. The heart palpitations are much better! Praise God again! Also, he felt well enough to go into work on Thursday, although he ended up coming home by lunch. The sickness is getting better, or he is able to cope better, but he couldn’t do a full day.
Today (5/8) I am trying to keep my mind stayed on the Lord in prayer and His word. I do not want to lapse into my old ways of hardly acknowledging my Lord and Savior throughout my days.

On Thursday I spoke to Anna’s pediatrician about her tremors that she is experiencing. She thought that it most likely could be anxiety related, especially after I told her about Mark’s health. She mentioned the possibility of therapy.

On Tuesday, May 13th Mark went for his weekly Oncologist visit and had blood work done to check his white and red blood cell counts. His red cells are doing great, but his white cells are low and he will need injections of Nupogen to enable him to have his next chemo treatment. He will need one on Saturday and one on Sunday. He will try to do them himself if the Insurance company will allow it. We saw the Cardiologist today as well and he thought that Mark’s palpitations could be benign, but wanted to give him a device that will track the problems. He puts it on his chest every time there are palpitations and then calls it in and they make an EKG t track it over a month. If something serious come up they call right away and get Mark the meds or care he needs. He did not think that this was life threatening.

I took Anna to see a Neurologist today for her tremors. He did not think it is stress or anxiety related and thought it was physiological tremors. She needs to get blood work done and check her thyroid, which could cause this but he doesn’t think that is it. He is not overly worried, saying that it could go away.

On Wednesday the 14th Mark was in a car accident that pretty much totaled the jeep. He was at Rt. 80 and 355 at a four-way blinking red light and went to drive in the intersection as everyone was stopped and a lady came from his right and slammed into him. She had a blinking yellow and so it was technically his fault even though the light was malfunctioning. Praise God he walked away unharmed. We now have the unexpected expense of buying a new used car for Mark. We are trusting that God will provide in all the details.

On Thursday, May 15th Mark lost his first tuft of hair in the shower. It had been coming out one at a time, but this time it was a group of them. It was hard to see, but the kids and I talked openly with him and it was fine.

Over the weekend Mark did okay. We went our on Monday the 19th and bought a car wholesale from a friend in the business. He gave us about $3,000 under sticker price. We both really feel that the Lord lead us to this car.

We were really starting to dread the chemo this time. I think that it is getting harder. On the 20th Mark went for his fourth chemo, a third done if he only has 12. He has such a long way to go and it does get harder every time. I am very discouraged and struggling with the enormity of the whole thing, treatment and the disease itself. Mark got very sick with the pre-meds and almost threw up. He was much more affected this time by the meds and slept about 90% of the time. Of course, he was his typical yellow color, which is so hard to see. He had a hard time getting up to go to the bathroom. They had to get the IV in with two tries, both very painful. We have figured out that the veins on his right arm are not good, except for the crook of his arm, which is not good for chemo but that is where he got it today. We were told by the nurse Nicole, (new this time for us), that he can use the left every time and it will be fine. Two weeks is enough to give it the break it needs. We will do that arm next time. He is upstairs sleeping right now, has been for two hours. It is now almost 7pm. He is so tired. He has mentioned to Dr. Walmark at the appointment with him before chemo today that he did not lose his hair yet. He hadn’t brushed it and the Dr thought that it was coming out in patches when it was really just messed up under his hat. His SED rate is at 2. The tumor pain and itchiness is still there but expected. He is so cautious and does not want to give us hope. He won’t tell us that Mark’s progress is anything but “good”. He always says that Mark will lose his hair. He will scan Mark at 4 cycles and then at 6 cycles (12 treatments). I can’t imagine him having to do 16 treatments. The thought of 12 is just too hard.

We notice that Mark gets red and puffy around the eyes after a treatment for the first couple of days. His face gets red as well. It does not seem to bother him too much. He is very sick today the 21st, one day after his 4th treatment. He worked for a few hours then came home and slept. He is very nauseous and won’t really be consistent with his meds, which doesn’t help. He will take it if things get really bad, which they do. He still hasn’t thrown up yet. He is discouraged today because we have so far to go. The end of this seems so far away and we have both been struck this week with the seriousness of the situation again and the length of it. So long! The oncologist tells us we “have so far to go”.

As seems to be the case, Mark started to feel better as the weekend progressed. He was able to play with the kids some, and we enjoyed some time together as a family. Monday he felt good, and went back to work. Sunday Kailey was sick throwing up, so we didn’t go to church. Monday, Memorial Day, Anna was sick and threw up a lot. There is always the concern about the kids getting Mark sick. Tuesday, May 27th he went in to the Oncologist’s office for blood work and to see the PA. His white blood cell counts are low again, and he will need to give himself three Nupogen shots over the weekend to endure the next round of chemo. On Wednesday afternoon, I started throwing up, and did so until night. Fortunately, this is a 12-hour thing. On Thursday Mark started to feel sick, but we don’t know for sure if it is the bug or from the chemo. After he took a nap we realized that he did indeed have the stomach bug, but a mild form. He never threw up and was fine the next day. He did take his temperature that night to make sure that he did not have a fever.

God was so good that week with the details of our schedule and being sick. There was a field trip on Wednesday for Ty’s class that I needed to drive for. We were both healthy for that. I got sick a few hours after we got back, then well enough to go to Kailey’s last day of preschool. Kailey and Anna didn’t miss anything important, and Tyler never got sick, making it possible for me to go out on Friday night. He was well on Saturday for his game, and we were well for church, their piano recital, and the birthday dinner at mom’s house for Sunday.
Now we are coming up on another chemotherapy session tomorrow. I am not looking forward to it, but it does feel a little different this time around. Mark is not taking the time to think about it, therefore not ruining his weekend. He is focusing on feeling well right now and will handle it when it comes.

Unfortunately, I am sick again, and woke up sick on Mark’s chemo day. It is some kind of viral cold thing. We went, and they got the IV in on the first try. They used his left forearm. We realize now that that vein and the one in the crook of his arm on his right arm are the good ones. We asked for a little container to throw up in if needed, but it wasn’t. It wasn’t as hard emotionally this time around, therefore making the treatment a little less difficult physically. Mark turned pale and yellow as usual, and was very groggy. He slept a lot, but not as much as last time. He was very fidgety and uncomfortable. He was very nauseous. We found out that our favorite nurse is now gone when he comes in for his treatments. She always got the IV in on the first try. We came home and I made him a roast beef sandwich. Rosa and Carolina were still here cleaning our house. It was their first time coming to clean, and the house looked great for about four days!

This week was very difficult for Mark physically. He did not take any meds for the nausea at all because he felt that it does not work at all. I was not happy with that, but do not want to mother him. He was sicker for longer and it was more intense. By Sunday, he was still nauseous and very tired. He was starting to have chest pain and shortness of breath on Saturday. This scared him very much because he felt that the chemo is now starting to do some lung damage and is very concerned about getting all the way through the treatments alive. He can’t imagine how he can survive the chemo, or at least live without damage to his long-term health. He always gets very lonely while he is getting through the bad days, and this time around he could not work on Wednesday like he always can. He is very much struggling with the increase in the symptoms. I am having to realize that we are just getting to a much harder point in the treatment process. We are passing from a doable time to a much more difficult and intense time of the treatment process. The symptoms will just get worse and worse. We need to trust the Lord for his life, no matter if he has one day, three months, or 40 years. We are all fleeting and our days are but a breath. We are like grass in the wind, being blown so easily and snuffed out like a flame. If the Lord so chooses, we will go home to him now. Likewise, we may go home decades from now.

On his 33rd birthday, Mark did not feel any cause to celebrate, but I reminded him that every breath is a gift form the Lord, and that if we have breath it is so because He desires it to be so. It was a good reminder for both of us.

Mark went to the Doctor’s and saw the PA on Tuesday the 10th of June. They are doing a pulmonary function test on Wednesday along with a blood ox test. He will need to get a chest x-ray as well. All this will determine if he has some lung tissue damage and toxicity. His chest is sore and he has shortness of breath. His counts were good and everything else seemed fine.
We are now getting to the weekend and it is finally good for Mark. He feels fine now, but tired. He was very irritable yesterday for some reason. It was very hard for me because the kids are going through a very hard time right now, with Ty not listening and whining, and Anna with disrespecting and arguing. Yesterday we were up until almost 10pm with Anna going over and over her attitude. We need a lot of prayer and help and wisdom for this one.

Mark still hasn’t lost all of his hair. It is looking very straggly, though. I think he needs to buzz it. He is holding onto it pretty tightly, though. It is very thin and too long on the top, but fine on the sides. The back is pretty thinned out too.

On June 18th, Mark had his 6th treatment. They got the IV in on the first try on his right forearm. That was a first! It was a true answer to prayer. Mark slept rather peacefully throughout most of the time. He really was dreading this treatment and it was at 1pm so we had the whole morning to think about it. He met his dad for breakfast and I had the kids out in Frederick running errands and then dropped them off at Ann-Marie’ house then came and got his to go straight to the appointment. Rosa and Carolina came that morning.

So, things went well. We talked about how the anti-nausea meds weren’t doing the trick, and he gave Mark a prescription for Ativan. He is combining that with the Zofran and that helps. He slept well the first night. He was able to get rest that first morning too. He is pretty sick, but the meds are helping. Dr. Walmark said that even with remission at 8 treatments if the lymph nodes are swollen he will need to have the 16 treatments if there is improvement after the 12. That means that there is room to get better. Also, the x-ray was normal for his chest, but they did not compare it to the first one from February. It means that the large mass is not visible. That is a great sign praise God! The Dr. is taking the lung issues very seriously. He said that it could be the beginnings of lung toxicity. They will repeat the test again soon. We are praying for protection of the chemo for his body and for healing by the 8th treatment. Dr. Walmark gave us the first positive statement that he had said in months when he said that he thought that “the Hodgkin’s was responding well to the treatment.”

Mark actually went out and ran/walked 2.5 miles today. I thought he was insane, and came home looking like death. He seemed to think it was good and necessary, though.
I am proud of him for taking the initiative to live a healthy lifestyle. This week for him was better than the following chemo week. The Ativan made a big difference and he slept much better. He stopped taking it on Saturday and seemed to have some anxiety then and on Sunday. He is very worried about not surviving the cancer and what is to come.

I am praying about putting my trust in the Lord regardless of the news that we get about the PET scan on about a month. He reins on high regardless of the news or circumstances, and we can know he is the rock and stronghold on our lives; the only source of strength and hope to turn to. He has gotten us this far, he will get us through the rest of this and what is to come. He is (Jesus) who we aim to become like, but only by his Spirit; not by our striving or effort. God is good.

On Tuesday, June 24th Mark went to the oncologist’s office to see Lisa the PA for blood work and weight check, etc. He had some baby white blood cells, meaning that the Nupogen is working to create new cells. His weight was down a little. He may have scar tissue where the cancer was. Hopefully the word is “was” and not “is”. We are praying that the next two treatments before the scan do the trick and get any remaining cancer that is left. We are praying for a permanent remission.

This week has been such a spiritual battle for Mark. He is terrified that he is not responding to the cancer, no basis in reality. He started doing better but then is struggling again. He started to have some near cold sweats the other night and this terrified him. They are similar to the old cancer symptoms.

On July 1st, Kailey’s 4th birthday, we went in for his 7th treatment. The kids went to Mom and Dad’s and stayed with them until the next evening. We discussed with the dr. his new symptoms and he said that it could be the chemo causing the sweats and chills. He said that he thought it wasn’t the cancer coming back, but would not commit to anything and said that the scan will tell. Everything else seemed fine. His blood work was good. The IV took two tries this time. We did find some vein damage in his left arm, hardening in a vein in the lower arm. This is caused by the DTIC. He felt sick as soon as he saw the chemo chairs. He was groggy and woozy from the meds but was able to fall asleep and sleep for most of the time quickly. I spent about 45 minutes trying to get his scans and appointments figured out, complicated by the fact that Dr. Walmark was going out of town. So inconsiderate of him! Mark did get up once when I was not around, which bothered me a little because he has a hard time walking to the bathroom. There was a kink in the IV and they had a hard time getting the flow to go just right at first, then at the end the last app. 10 (milligrams?) of DTIC would not go through due to air in the IV. I did not mention this to him partly due to the fact that he would not have been able to focus or process the info due to the meds, and also because it would have upset him to know it. I worry that this could be a detriment to his healing, but need to give it to God. I know that the nurse said that it was insignificant. It is the Lord’s to do with as he wills.

Mark slept fine with the Ativan that night. I filled his prescription for the Zofran today before and the insurance company would not give us the 24, but only 12 because it is an $800.00 prescription. We will have to fight to get the other part covered when it is needed.

Reflecting over the previous treatments, I am reminded that I did not want to see Mark getting IVs at first, but now I am used to it and even watch sometimes. I remember the pain and fears, and can empathize with him completely. I just pray for his veins to hold up and cooperate for the nurses.

He is doing about the usual for his bad week. He is sleeping a little and staying on the couch most of the day. We are 12 1/2 weeks into this whole treatment ordeal. He asked for prayer yesterday, and I know he is struggling with being sick and not knowing if it will do any good to be treated. It would be so frustrating to go through this for nothing. Maybe it would not be for nothing, only God knows.

Mark’s talk about sharing his faith has impacted me to pray about doing it as well. It is more on my mind now. He shared the gospel with Chuck again last week and gave him a tract to read. He was very interested. He shared with Kevin Lewis, our neighbor, on Sunday after church when a B-B-Q was over in the neighborhood and gave him a tract. He was very interested and open to talking with Mark the next time he sees him. I want to do the same.

Unfortunately Kailey is sick now with a fever. She got sick while she was still with Mom and Dad and woke up sick today, the 3rd of July. We are keeping her away from Mark and the other kids and praying that they do not get sick too. I need to stay healthy too!

On the 4th of July Kailey went early with Steve and Angie and spent the night with them. I took Anna and Tyler up to Frederick for the afternoon and evening to spend time with the Millers and to see fire works. Mark was very lonely and had a long day all by himself. The kids offered to stay with him and keep him company. He told them they were wonderful but to go. It was hard to be without him that day.

On Tuesday the 8th Mark went in to see Lisa the PA and have blood work done. His white counts are doing great with the shots but his red cells are starting to drop near to the low zone. He is not sleeping well due to body aches and discomfort and asked for a mild sleep aid to help. He is on Ambien. He took it last night and did well with it, getting a decent night’s sleep for a change. He slept upstairs on the air mattress that I bought for him. It is actually comfortable for him. He got more Ativan for when he is nauseous. He is still nauseous today, Wednesday of his good week, which is unusual. Usually by this time he is feeling pretty good. It is discouraging and scary too. We know that it will just keep getting worse. He still has five more to go, but it may be nine. We can’t imagine doing that many. Five is hard enough to do.

Right now, the answered prayers that I know are; Mark is still working some, spending time with his kids, playing some golf, getting out some, I’m getting out some, financial provisions, Anna is adjusting some to Mark’s illness, the kids are doing fine this summer with the changes and Mark being sick, we have a support network, Mark’s heart and lungs are doing okay, Mark hasn’t thrown up yet, he is keeping his weight consistent, he hasn’t lost all of his hair yet, he has grown in tremendous ways over the last months, he has shared his faith with two people last week, he tried to give a tract to a waitress, he hasn’t needed a port yet, his veins are holding up except for one being damaged some. I am sure that there is more. The Lord has provided in many great ways. We are amazed at how awesome he is. It is very scary and we are scared, yet somehow we trust in his goodness and his love for us.

I think that Mark is slipping more and more into a depression. He has been depressed and discouraged for three or more weeks now. He cannot lift out of it. When I try to encourage him it backfires. I do not know what to do or say. He feels so isolated and lonely, but is too tired to pray or talk to me and has to go to bed early when the kids do. We have not had a date night in over a month. It is very sad and we are struggling with it tremendously. I think that this is just as hard as him having the cancer itself. I read a verse that states that with God nothing is impossible. He and do all things. I know that he can. With Mark it is not just simply saving his life but he is mourning his quality of life right now, which is rapidly declining. I care deeply about that too but can accept it better, partly because I am not the one physically going through it and partly because I know it is the evil we need to choose to get the desired results. It is all just too sad for words. I do not know how we can continue with this level of sadness. We need the Lord to come and rescue us. Please come and rescue us, oh Lord. Please help us through the depth of this agony. I know that Mark is drowning. I feel that he is pulling us, me, down with him.

Mark had lunch with Ken Jackson on Friday the 11th and was able to share a lot of what the Lord has shown to him through this whole thing. He took some time to pray and really focus on the Lord, prayer, and his word and this made a huge difference for him. He is now sleeping a little better and it does affect his energy level. We had a good weekend. I went out for the day and then to dinner with Ann-Marie. Mark took the kids to the park for 15 minutes and then had to come home. They were able to play outside when they got home.

At church on the 13th, people noticed that Mark looks like he is on chemo. He looks like he has cancer. His eyebrows are gone accept for a few hairs and his hair on his head is very sparse. I noticed that his armpit hairs are sparser now as well. He is really, really, losing his hair now. He has for months now, but it is now showing the result of months of slow hair loss. He is very weird about it. He does not want to shave or buzz it, although I almost got him to do that.

On July the 15th we went in for his 8th treatment. This was the milestone before his scans. It was so very hard for the both of us to do this one. I think we just feel awful that we have to do it yet again. Dr. Walmark said that Mark was in need of an Aranesp shot for his red blood cell counts. They are too low now. Mark told him that his energy level is very low now. He is on a steep downward slide with his health now due to the chemo. Dr. Walmark said that we can skip the off-week appointments for the lab work. He feels that Mark is consistent with his blood work each week and that it is not necessary. We mentioned about our trip to Cape Cod and he thought it would be fine. He has a colleague in Cape Cod and would have Mark see him if something went wrong. We talked about how we will be calling him for the scan results before we see him the next Thursday. I told Mark about my fears with us looking at a copy of the PET scan and trying to diagnose Mark ourselves. It could go either way to giving us an incorrect impression. Dr. Walmark noticed that Mark’s eyebrows are falling out. He showed him his hair, and he said that it is happening really slowly.

It was hard to walk back to the treatment room and see the chairs again. They got the IV in on the first try, which was great. Mark had them use his right arm. He asked for a bucket right away. He felt nauseous pretty quickly. I think that the psychological aspect of it is so very hard for him. He gets sick just thinking about it. He ended up sleeping most of the time. He got up once to use the bathroom and when I offered help, he barley could answer and said no. He gets this scrunched up miserable look on his poor sickly face. It is so hard to see. He walked so slowly to the car. I am at the point where I try not to talk to him at all after a treatment. I offer food and to get things for him, but will not engage him in a conversation or ask other questions. He is too sick. He is also short with me and it is hard because I know that he does not mean to. He is just too out of it and sick to pay attention or think how it might affect me. It is hard for me, though. He could not sleep upstairs with me on his air mattress because he is too nauseous to put on his chin strap so he does not snore.

I am trying to get into God’s word more. I realize that a part of me has enjoyed people’s sympathy and their attention. That makes me utterly sick, because I can’t imagine the toll doing this 8 more times will have on Mark, our family, finances, etc. I have been praying boldly for the Lord to heal Mark in a way that would astonish people. I think, from a human perspective, that it would mean he would have to go through so much more and them be healed at the brink of death. I can’t imagine that. So now, I just pray for His will, but for mercy and healing now. I know that the Lord will bring glory to himself through this situation in his own way and timing. I just can’t imagine the toll this will take on us. Mark looks at 12 treatments as limping over the finish line. He looks at 16 as killing him, which it may. The cancer might go away but he can die from the treatment. Please, Lord, do not let that happen!

Psalm 42 is what I am focusing on right now. That, and just that God is good, and faithful, and merciful. I KNOW that He is GOOD. Mark just left to go and walk the trails at Black Hill Park for 40 minutes. He is the day after chemo, on Ativan, and looking like death now. I have to trust that he will be okay and come home safely. I am expecting to see him looking about ready to die when he gets home. Kailey has a cold now and I pray that no one else gets it. She has been sick so much this summer! I can’t believe it and know that this is an opportunity to trust in the Lord FULLY for our health.

On Thursday, July 17th Mark buzzed his hair with his trimmer at home. I helped get the back part that he could not see. It looks very different, but the kids like it. You can see scalp all over, and the front is unusually full in the top front area. The top is very sparse. You can see every little red mark on his scalp. He does not like it, but he didn’t like the way it was before. I think it looks better. He said that he was getting tired of it. I had been praying that he would do something with it. I didn’t want to bug him and wanted him to make the decision himself.

He has done better this time around. His fear and depression is better, and that makes a huge difference. He has been able to talk and get excited about some things, and on Saturday we went to Baker Park in Frederick and walked around the small pond and fed the ducks. Mark sat on a bench when we fed the ducks. It was very relaxing and a beautiful day. These are the little blessings that the Lord has been faithful to give to us along the way. Of course, when we got home Mark needed to take a nap.

On Sunday night we discovered by looking through the paperwork for Mark’s scans for the following day that they wrote in small print to pick up barium before the scan. We got a little panicky and needed to pray about it and give all of the details to the Lord. I have found that my usual organized self has become totally unreliable when it comes to getting organized and doing what needs to be done right now. It is very discouraging and I felt like a total failure. Mark and I really prayed about it and then went to bed.

On Monday, July 21st we got up early to go to Mark’s CAT and PET scan. We needed to be at the CAT scan at 8am for an 8:15 appointment. We got there at 7:30 to try and figure out how we could make it work without taking the barium ahead of time. They could not get a good contrast for his pelvis area without having taken the barium the night before and then that morning. We were pretty discouraged, but went next door to the PET scan place and they said that we could have that one and not need to reschedule. They even took us early, because our appointment was at 9am. Mark was injected with the stuff and had to sit still for 45 minutes just like the first time. He could not talk a lot. While they did this I went back to the CAT scan place next door rescheduled the scan for 11:30am the next day. I picked up the barium then. Then they took him back for the scan, which took one hour. He became totally claustrophobic with about 25 minutes to go because he had to wear his sweat shirt to stay warm and it bunched up around his neck due to having to keep his arms above his head. He could barely get through the rest of the scan. When he was done he came home and kind of fell apart. He was over come with how hard this world is and how lonely he was. He did not want me to leave his side. The kids were with Ann Barker, having come early at 7am and staying after we left to get them fed and then take them out. She had Kailey all day and then got the other two and kept them for the afternoon. I was going to run errands. I stayed with him for lunch then we prayed and then we both left. He went to work. We felt that maybe it was God’s mercy that he did not have to do both scans in the same day.

Monday night, the night of the PET scan, Mark went to bed early and developed a fever. It was 101.3 at it’s high. He called the doctor and got Dr. Brown. He told him to drink water and take two Tylenol and wait for one hour. If it got worse or no better he would have to go the ER and be admitted. We called my mom and she came over. We were fairly certain that we would have to go to the ER. Thankfully it came down to 98.7, and we were able to go to sleep around 2:30am. We were so incredibly tired.

The next day we went to his cat scan appointment and that went okay. They left the IV in so we could go next door to the oncologist and draw blood for a cbc to check his white counts due to the fever. I talked to the triage nurse while he was in the scan and she said Walmark said to come on in. They were able to get blood from the IV at the treatment area. It was so hard being there on an off-week. We then went back to a room and spoke with Lisa. She said his red blood cell counts were low, at 12, and had him go back to the treatment room for an Aranesp shot. It stung very badly. Lisa had given Mark an examination and everything seemed fine. We think he had a viral thing. She said to wait 24 hours to see if the fever came back. It didn’t, thank the Lord.

We were supposed to get the test results today, the 23rd, but didn’t. They did fax the report over but no one called Mark back. It was very difficult. We ended up going out to dinner and took a 1-mile walk at the park while the babysitter came over to stay with the kids. We had a great talk even though we were both beyond tired.

Kailey is now sick again. What I thought were allergies have now started to come out of her eyes and she is warm. I am taking her into the Dr today and hoping we can get her fixed up. I just called Mark and he was on the other line with the oncologist office. I am waiting for him to call me back!

On Thursday the 24th of July we were scheduled to go in at 4pm for the test results. Mark could not get them to give him the results early before we went in. We had to wait for the actual appointment. We got there and were waiting in the room for Dr. Walmark when he walked by and said, “Hi. It looks good. The scans were good, the best they could be. I will be there soon.” He walked on. We had been so nervous and anxious to hear. We did not want to hear that he still had cancer and all of the possibilities with that. More chemo, long-term health ramifications, alternative treatments. The list was too long to bear. I could not bear having to call people with bad news, the same people that I called back in March with the devastating news of his diagnosis. With just a few simple words things had turned around drastically. We were shocked. I looked at Mark and said, “You don’t have cancer anymore.” He started to cry. Someone walked by and asked if he wanted water, and I blurted out that he was fine. We were amazed at God’s goodness. He had healed Mark and set us free from the struggles of the last few months. We were not going to lose him yet. He will be okay for now, and possibly for a very long time. God was so good and faithful, and we were very humbled and grateful. We were so blessed. We talked with the Dr. calmly and them left. He had mentioned that the report said that the lymphatic activity had resolved itself. We didn’t care what all of that was. We just wanted to hear that he was in remission. He was. He said that he was pretty sure that Mark did not have to do the full 16 treatments. He could not make any promises. He said that Mark is in remission and that if there is no improvement between the 8th and the 12th treatment that the hope for a total cure would be much increased.

We left and went to the car. When we got in we called Anna right away. Ann-Marie was at our house watching the kids. Mark called and asked for Anna. He told her the great news and she said “Yeah!” She was so very relieved. We then had Tyler get on the phone and Mark told him. He was so excited. He asked how many treatments Mark had left and we did not know. We then told Ann-Marie and she said that it was the best news she had heard in a very long time. She was very happy.

Mark called his father next and he was relieved and happy in a reserved way. His mom got on and she was pleased. I then called my mom next and she said “Laurie!” and started to cry. She told dad and he said “Hey!” I then called Iris and she said “YES!!!” She was very excited. Mark tried calling Mark Kreslins but he was unavailable. I called Ann and she heard my voice and got nervous. She was expecting bad news. I told her that I was calling to tell her that Mark is in remission. She said, “Oh Laurie, I am so glad!” She cried and was so relieved. She called Larry right after getting off the phone with me and he said that it was a miracle. When we got home Ann-Marie hugged the both of us and was so happy. I called and didn’t get Angie but left a message, and she called back and said that she teared up when she heard my message. I called Kelli and she said, “Wow, did you expect this?” I think she was in shock. Mark finally got hold of Mark Kreslins and he was very excited.

I talked to Chris that night and she was so happy and glad. We had been holding off on the email update concerning Mark because we wanted to include his scan results. Everyone was on pins and needles waiting, and started asking others if they had heard. Iris got a lot of phone calls. It got to the point where every time I called someone they would get very silent and wait in a tense way, then I would have to say, “we don’t know anything yet, sorry.” After we told people that day we found out I email Angie with the update and then put a prayer request out on the email list for CBC.

On Saturday I called Ken Jackson and left messages for him about making an announcement on Sunday concerning Mark being in remission. He called back and thought that it was a great idea, but wanted me to do it! I told him that we are not in a place where we could do that, and he understood. He did make the announcement and everyone clapped. We got congratulations that morning from quite a few people. It was a great thing to experience compared to March! We decided at the last minute to go on our vacation. Dr. Walmark had no problems with it at all. I had concerns about sleeping arrangements with all of the people going and also with all of the work that I would have to do. It was very overwhelming, and Mark had to have chemo the day before we left. John came over and prayed with us that Monday before that Monday before the next treatment. He reminded us that although the chemo is horrible, his life is worth it and he has a wife and three kids.

On the 29th of July we went in for Mark’s 9th chemo treatment. He knew that new damage had happened to his vein after the 8th treatment and he was worried that they could not get the IV started. It would mess up our trip but also his chemo schedule and that day’s treatment. We were worried about the pain involved with the trouble getting the IV in. We saw Lisa and she read the report to us again about how great the scans were. He went back for the treatment to start and we waited fort he nurse. Unfortunately, she tried three times to get a vein, and couldn’t. She got another nurse who had to try two times she got it in. They really moved it around and hurt him. He got a blood blister from the IV site on his left arm. The Lord truly answered that prayer! There was a lot of scar tissue and his veins are really chewed up. He was really struggling with the whole thing, as was I. We were very relieved that they got it in finally. I prayed the whole time. The blood that they took from the IV site did not come out properly, but they were able to get a cbc. The nurse scheduled surgery for a port for the Monday before the next treatment. We were matter of fact about needing it. It simply had to be done.

This chemo treatment was by far the worst. Not only was the IV part horrible, but when she administered the IV push drugs Mark’s stomach clutched and he almost threw up. We got a bucket for him and it passed. He got incredibly ill from it, but was able to get through it. The immediate taste of the chemo as it goes into his bloodstream is terrible. He had to get up once or twice to use the bathroom and had a hard time walking. When he was dozing I got the schedule information from the nurse about his surgery and also that he needed to have more blood drawn for the clotting factor before surgery. When he was done I had to break it to him and he was not happy. They were going to send him to the lab but did it in the treatment room instead. They had to use the back of his hand and tried in his left then his right before they got it after three tries. By this time he was miserable and I hadn’t eaten all day, (It was around 2:45) so my blood sugar was low and I started feeling faint. I held it together though! We then left and the both of us staggered out to the elevator! He was asking, ”Are you okay?” I was answering, “I’m fine. Are you okay?” It was strange. We walked slowly to the car and I collected myself and was fine. It never got too bad for me. I had just had it! We stopped for food on the way home and I got us lunch to take back to the house. He rested the rest of the day. Ann-Marie had the kids and I needed to pack for the trip the next day, having done only 1/3 of it the day before. I had to run some errands and used up all my kid-less time doing that. I packed after dinner and the next morning, and we left at 11am. Ann Barker and Jeff Fahrner came over before we left for our trip and prayed with us. It was a true blessing and the kids all sat very still and listened to the prayers.

The trip went great and Mark drove half of it, the first half. The driveway at the cabin was very hard for him. Too bumpy! We slept in the big room with him on the air mattress and that worked fine. We stayed there two nights then Mom, Dad, Chris, Brandy, and Anna and Tyler went to the Cape with Steve and Angie and their kids while we stayed back and Mark rested. I took Kailey out for the afternoon so he could sleep, but he was lonely. Ty missed us terribly and cried before he left then again at dinnertime that night, but he was fine. We got there with no problems the next day and had a good time at the beach. He did fine, sleeping on the porch on the air mattress until the fourth night when he was up all night with terrible heart palpitations. He became very panicked and thought he would die. He almost came and got me in Big Steve’s room five times. He made it through but then the next night the girls, K and Jessie were up and scared, so he slept with K. Others had to get up and use the bathroom all night and he didn’t get to sleep until 3am. He was so tired and spent the rest of the day that we decided to go back to the cabin on early early. The kids were sad but they were fine. I was a little sad too, but the trip back was okay and we got in around 10pm and the kids went to bed well even after sleeping in the car. We all slept till 9am and had the most relaxing and nice family day. It was nice to be just the five of us again. We were glad we stayed the extra night there, then went home the next day. All in all, the Lord really blessed our trip and it was a great change of scenery for the both of us. The Lord really allowed Mark to recuperate much faster after this treatment and he was more encouraged and not so tried. He is so good!

On the last few days of the trip Mark had called Shady Grove radiology and confirmed what he needed to do for the procedure. It was hard to come home and have to get right into surgery and chemo.

We had Ann come early and then got to the hospital at 7:20am. We had an 8am surgery scheduled. It went fine and they got everything in great. It was about a 40-minute procedure. He did get a little panicky and claustrophobic during it and was able to move his arm and the surgical drape. I went back to him after and he got an antibiotic drip to ensure that he does not get an infection then Herapin to flush the port and keep it from clotting. He was in minimal pain and came home then went right to work.

On Tuesday Mark had his 10th treatment. I left early to drop the kids off with Margo Lennox and then swung back and picked him up at home. He came out of the house so angry and frustrated that he had to go through yet another chemo treatment when he felt good finally. The pain in his left hip is finally gone and he is stronger due to the Aranesp shot finally working. I almost cried because I knew how hard it was for him to go back to that office. When we pulled up to it he just said how much he hated it. It was horrible walking into that office again. We were called quickly and went right into a room after he was weighed and so on. His weight was 179, having moved up some after being on vacation. We saw Lisa this time and she said that the report on the scans were very positive and definitive where usually radiologists never use the type of certain works this one did bout Mark’s progress. It turns out, after getting a copy of the report and going over it with Lisa, that there are only a few lymph nodes that are still enlarged. In all likely-hood he will not have to do the additional four treatments, but she wouldn’t say for sure without consulting Walmark and he won’t say without those next round of scans.

We went back to the treatment room and had to find two seats together. It was very crowded. It is always harder to go through when there are so many other patients there. Mark’s port site was very tender and he had bruising. The nurse inserted the IV in right through his steri strips and skin. It hurt, but was short-lived pain compared to the last time with all of those tries for the IV. They had to flush it with saline and he tasted that right away. We were afraid that he would throw up from the immediate and very strong taste of the chemo when she did the IV push drugs, but he sucked on hard candy and got through it without throwing up. He almost immediately got that very sour look on his face as the nurse gave him the drugs. He had his hand over his face and I could tell he was struggling very much. He also did not fall asleep the way he usually does until after the nurse started the DTIC and saline drip. He feels that the drugs are not having as much as an effect on him as they used to. He did sleep after that. We got done in the same timeframe that we usually do. The kids were dropped off to us about 11/2 hours after we got home, allowing for rest for the both of us. He went to bed when I did that night, around 9:30pm, after watching a little TV together. It was nice to spend that time together.

He actually went to work the next day, the first Wednesday after chemo he worked in a ling time. He felt pretty awful when he got home near dinner-time, and went down in the basement to nap.

I think that the recurring theme for me right now is that God is good. He is faithful. I think of all of the things that he had done for us and will continue to do for us and I am amazed. So many people say that he will never give us anything that we cannot handle. That to me seemed wrong, but I thought that if it is in the Bible it must be true. Yesterday I read in 1 Corinthians 10:13. “No temptation has seized you accept what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” What the Lord showed me is that he often times allows great struggles and pain into our lives, times when we have no choice but to run to him. It is far beyond our ability to fix or change. These times are a true blessing and an evidence of the Lord’s loving care for us and his desire to see us become more like his son. This is why Mark and I will absolutely not choose to see him as anything but good and merciful and loving. He is wise and righteous and will always be on the throne. Thank you Lord! He showed me that it is not that he keeps the hard times from us because we are too weak to handle them but that he has promised to equip us to not sin through those hard times. He will give us what we need to grow spiritually. He will make us more Christ-like and sanctify us. We will be more useful in his eternal purpose for our lives and others. He will help us to know that he is good, to know it beyond a shadow of a doubt. I think that until you have experienced being brought to the edge and back in this life, you cannot really appreciate the Lord’s goodness and grace. You cannot know what it means to give him your husband and say, “It is my dream to have a complete family and to stay together and grow old together. I want him to see his kids and grandkids grow up. I want to keep
him, but he is yours and I will trust in your goodness even if you make me a widow and my kids fatherless.” I can now imagine what it would be like to see my husband die a slow death in front of me, my kids, and the world. I have spent that last five months thinking, praying, crying, and giving this over to him who made us. It is okay because he says it’s okay. I can’t imagine having one of my kids that sick. I thought I was awful to finally be okay with my husband’s death and not the thought of my kids dying, but then realized that the Lord had months to work in my heart to give my husband to him and I haven’t had to face that with my kids yet. There is no grace given for the “what ifs” of life. Before Mark was diagnosed he was out of work for 6 months. I questioned the Lord more then than at any other time in my life. I called it my spiritual mid life crisis. I was half joking but not fully. It really was a crisis of sorts that went far beyond finances. I know that the financial problems people face can tear someone away from the Lord like no other struggle. Yet, there was always some modicum of control we had in the situation. We could move, I could work, we could sell possessions, etc. We had it in our power to change the situation with some drastic measures if we so chose. But cancer, stage three or beginning four Hodgkins with a 50% chance to live, surgery and chemo… and the poor kids. Everything, really. There was nothing we could do. If we moved the cancer would still be taking over Mark’s body. If we had money he would still be sick. I knew with sickening reality that the Lord could still choose to take Mark even after doing all he could do by going to chemo treatments. This, this went deeper than anything else we had experienced, and therefore our walk with the Lord went deeper. It thrived and he revealed himself and truths to us that we couldn’t see before. Yes, he is good. I know that and I pray for my kids to always know this, in their hearts and their minds. God was good before the remission and he is good after remission. If Mark were to die, God would still be good. We have eight more years to get through before we can know this particular cancer is behind us.

Mark worked on the Thursday after chemo this time, too. He did not, however, work on Friday. We had to go buy a battery for his car and then drive to his office. He was so sick, but got his car fixed then came home.

We went out to a Frederick Keys game with the Millers on Saturday night. Mark was exhausted and pretty sick but did it for the kids and for us to be together. They had fireworks after and they were spectacular. It was a real blessing to be able to go and do something together for a change. It was his hard weekend. Church on Sunday was good and I was struck that if we all worshiped while giving our hearts fully to the Lord that we would all be on the floor crying. Mark was crying and emotional, as was I to some extent. I realize that we will always face difficulties and heartache, as well as hardships. We need to see them as the Lord’s mercy and was he draws us near to him and into prayer and his word. Isn’t that what we all want? Isn’t that what it is all about? It’s about Him, not us. It’s about others, not us. God reins on high and is still on the throne. He is the same yesterday and today. Not wanting trials is about us. Embracing trials is about the Lord and our desire to grow and become more Christ-like. I have never personally seen someone go through a difficult trial without growing spiritually. This to me is clear proof of the Lord’s existence and Christianity. He is awesome.

Mark was able to work every day on his off-week this time. He had to come home early had to rest and walked very once to get a nap, but did okay. The weekend was good because he felt good by Saturday. Sunday after we had church we went to Black Hill Park and had a picnic and took a walk. The kids played in the creek on the trail and had such a good time. Mark walked very slowly. I took pictures to document that we went out and did this even during chemo. I want the kids to remember that the Lord gave us good times during a very difficult time of our lives. He did indeed.

On Monday, Mark felt like he couldn’t do the next treatment. He just didn’t want to do it. We went in on Tuesday as usual and had to wait a very long time to see the PA. Then we went back to the treatment room and Mark had such a strong reaction to just being there and he almost threw up just by walking into the room. I had to run and get him a bucket. He was so traumatized by being there this time, much more than usual. It took so long for the nurse to get him started with his IV and to get the labs back. They finally did and they started the chemo. Mark got so sick and almost threw up. He was very upset when his pre-meds were done dripping through the IV and they did not move him along to the next thing. The DTIC flowed through quickly because of the port allowing it to.

When it was time to go we got out to the car and Mark was so sick and traumatized. We got home and nothing to eat appealed to him so he didn’t eat until late. Ice cream was the only thing that worked. The next day, Wednesday, is usually tolerable but this time it was horrible. He tried to work but could only do a couple hours. The next day was worse, and Friday, usually his worst day, was just as bad. He keeps toying with the idea of calling up Walmark and demanding the scans early to skip the last treatment. I know that this will not happen.

(Mark Writing)

I managed to get through my 12 treatments, even though I wanted to quit many times. By the end of the treatments, God had me where he wanted me, fully surrendered to Him. I was finally to the point where I could trust Him whether I lived or died. Thankfully He allowed me to live, and I am a much better person having been through cancer. Hopefully, this journal gave you a feel for some of what it is like to go through cancer from a caregiver’s perspective. I am working on posting my journal and thoughts from the patient’s point of view.

About Me:

My name is Mark Williams and I am a cancer survivor currently in remission by the grace of God. I am passionate about helping and encouraging others who are fighting cancer. I actively help them think through all of the issues they face upon hearing such shocking and devastating news and offer prayer support. Sometimes people also just need someone to listen. This is a personal ministry of mine that I provide as time permits without cost and from a Christian point of view. If you would like to reach me, please use the contact form on this website




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